Whooping cough outbreaks: three-fold increase this year

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Whooping cough notifications have jumped three-fold for the same period last year – with the NSW Labor Opposition calling on the Baird Government to step up efforts to counter the anti-vaccination movement.

Official NSW Health data shows that for January-June 2014, there were 911 notifications while for January-June 2015, there were 2831 notifications – a three-fold increase.

Recently, we have seen a number of whooping cough outbreaks in: Wollongong; Coffs Harbour; Bellingen; the Hills District in Sydney’s northwest; and the Sutherland Shire.

Whooping cough (also known as pertussis) is a serious respiratory infection that causes a long coughing illness. In babies, the infection can lead to pneumonia and occasionally, brain damage. It is a notifiable disease – meaning all doctors, hospitals and laboratories are required by law to alert public health units of new cases being diagnosed.

Shadow Minister for Health Walt Secord said:

“The worst part of this increase in whooping cough incidences in NSW is that many of them were preventable. Due to declining vaccination rates, there are outbreaks in NSW every three or four years.

“Vaccination and fluoride are 20th century achievements. Vaccinations work and save lives. Sadly, large scale vaccinations have allowed a small fringe to become complacent about the welfare of our nation’s children.

“Vaccinations protect us and have made us healthy, so I support strong moves against parents who jeopardise the health of their children, other children, elderly people, pregnant women and people whose immunity is compromised.

“The Baird Government must re-double its efforts to increase vaccinations. I offer my bipartisan support and I am willing to consider any sensible measures to increase vaccinations. While the NSW and Federal governments have taken some steps in relation to this issue, there is still more work to be done.

“We do not allow people to not wear seatbelts and ignore speed limits based on their own beliefs, and we should not allow people to refuse to immunise their children.

“It is heartbreaking to see that immunisation rates on the North Coast and Sydney’s east have slipped to the levels of the developing world.”